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Happy Campers by Laurence McCahill

Business conferences. Scary? Uninspiring? Soul-destroying? The Happy Startup School is out to change all that with its Summer Camp, taking place next month



As anyone who’s ever been to a conference knows, there’s a certain protocol of behaviour that starts with putting a badge on your suit, listening to highly lauded speakers for hours, punctuated by tea, biscuits and lunch. If you’ve ever found yourself uninspired by this scenario, you might find The Happy Startup School’s approach more engaging.

Next month, 100 people will gather at a farm set in 300 acres of rolling Sussex countryside to hear inspiring speakers, participate in workshops, clarify their start-up pitch, find business mentors, oh, and listen to live music, try their hand at fishing, play the ukulele and enjoy a karaoke sauna. With an emphasis on mind, body and soul, this is a business conference with a holistic difference.

The Happy Startup Summer Camp is the brainchild of a small team led by co-founders Laurence McCahill and Carlos Saba, who created a small yet highly successful digital agency. “We got a bit disillusioned with big campaigns that had little real value,” says McCahill, “and we started to work with people who were passionate about bringing their business ideas to life.

“We wanted to help entrepreneurs on their journey to create start-ups for the right reasons, as opposed to financial reward and focusing on the exit. We’re not alone and there’s an appetite among people to do more than just chase cash. We started off with meet-ups at online and offline events, and the last two years have been a journey working towards creating the Happy Startup School.”

Although initially focused on a UK audience, the school has already attracted an increasingly international following, and earlier this year it hosted its first overseas event, Alpitude, a mountainside retreat of 25 entrepreneurs over seven days who gathered to enjoy mountain hiking, fondues, talks and, of course, business planning.

“Our events are characterised by community, commonality and collaboration,” says McCahill. “The Startup School is still in its infancy but it feels like a lot of good stuff is happening and this thinking will become mainstream in a few years. The next generation wants more than just a pay cheque and they are much more choosy on how they spend their time and want companies to support their dreams. It’s a good way to do business and even big firms can do it and still be authentic. It takes a lot of guts to stand up to shareholders, but it’s absolutely the way to go in the future.”

The blurring of personal and professional lives is reflected in The Happy Startup School’s events where partners and kids are welcomed too. “We are fed so much information each day,” adds McCahill. “Lots of events assume that speakers know everything and are giving the content, but we don’t need a prescriptive approach.

“At conferences we are expected to be charged up, but our events are intended to allow people to wind down, to be contemplative and to seek clarity, not just on the positive, but also where things are going wrong, to create a way forward. I’m often at my most creative on holiday, when I’m away from a screen. Even Branson has his hammock on Necker Island!

“For anyone who wants a more fulfilled life, needs to re-connect with their vision or simply wants to unwind for a few days in a stunning setting, the Happy Startup Summercamp offers mentors, brain food, the opportunity to re-energise and connect with others.”

With a growing online global community, plans for a second Alpitude, an event in the Greek islands, plus connections to explore in Brazil and India, The Happy Startup School is on the crest of a wave of transformation in business and the future looks bright for both it and its followers.

The Happy Startup Summercamp takes place 18-20 September. To find out more and book tickets, visit happystartupsummer.camp


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